It is reported that Google in “code red”, deploying resources and calling them co-founders to eliminate perceived threats to their extremely dominant search engine. The daytime threat is ChatGPT, a large AI-powered language model that also helps us write term papers and poetry, develop rules, and make medical diagnoses. But there is another car coming behind in the search race. This is TikTok.
Tiktok for search? You can ask. How can a cheeky video app filled with dancing teenagers, cat memes, cooking hacks, and nasty tricks help you find a financial advisor, train schedules, or even search results for yourself? It depends on how you interpret “search”, but if you’re looking for less specific, more entertaining results – the search process is more like a social discovery – then TikTok plays a strong role. In 2021, content delivery network Cloudflare reported that Tiktok.com overtook Google as the most visited web domain in the world. And last year, the senior vice president of search at Google noted that 40 percent of young Internet users regularly turning to TikTok or Instagram for searches. (TikTok did not respond to inquiries about search trends.)
More proof: When I shared on the WIRED Slack channel that I would try using TikTok search for a week, two younger co-workers who are different generations from me said, by the way, they also search almost Everybody on TikTok. So, on a recent Tuesday, I opened up TikTok and started my experiment with fast typing on a touch screen with a little desperation.
The first day
I’m not what you would call super active on TikTok. I follow a few dozen people and posted one video (cat). From time to time, I’ve been sucked into the maelstrom of the For You app page, which shows videos that the TikTok algorithm thinks I might like. One of the reasons I rarely use the app is for security reasons. TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. recently adopted that some of its employees have accessed the whereabouts of American journalists in order to try to identify their sources (i.e. spy on them). Even with this knowledge, I still have a TikTok account because I test a lot of apps.
I was intrigued by how my colleagues use TikTok search. There was a feeling that there used to be a small gap due to age, and now yawns loudly, and they are on the side of oxygen consumption, and I am on the side of fatigue. Is my story old? The facts that I was a college graduate when Google went public, or that I was in the room when Steve Ballmer yelled “Damn!” and revealed the new Microsoft search engine, here I am absolutely not trusted.
The first thing I’m looking for is how to tie the AirTag, a gift given to me because of my habit of losing my keys. TikTok delivers here. I can watch the first video in the results, 31 seconds long, without having to scroll through dozens of other videos in the results. And because it’s a live thumbnail, I don’t even have to click on the video to hear the audio. It’s fast and easy. It will be fun.
I wake up and remember that I have a job that involves a lot of careful searching on the Internet. I open TikTok and look for specific information about Apple’s business, such as the number of employees working at Apple retail stores. I can’t seem to find the answer there, but I do find a couple of useful hacks (how to write off your $1,100 iPhone in taxes so you only pay half) and Apple Store interaction parodies (the “employee” apologizes for the hour-long wait, there are currently six people helping, and there are only 90 employees).
My editor literally says, “Let me google this for you.” TikTok, as it turns out, is not a portal for 10-K reporting on SEC.gov. This is the portal for more TikTok.
Later that day, I open TikTok again and he recommends an account called “oldloserinbrooklyn”, especially the man’s predictions for 2023, chief among which was “closing more print magazines”. I don’t invent.